At last, the long days and warm nights have arrived! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is the most "yang" season of the year.
The heat and the sun draws you outdoors to feel the warmth on your skin, allowing you to fill up on Vitamin D. It's a time to exercise outdoors, eat light, sleep shorter hours, and rest over lunch.
Yang too, is at its fullest in the body, as energy flows particularly at the surface of your body, causing veins to surface and the skin to sweat.
During this time, you should eat pungent herbs and foods, which increase energy flow and can help maintain normal, healthy sweating.
While yang is hot, it's also drying. Yang is fire and expanding, so this makes summer a time when things grow rapidly. Depending on your location in the world, summer can be very different than in other areas.
This location will then dictate how you eat. Some of us live in a hot and dry climates, while others in hot and humid, and others are in cooler areas.
For those in the north, temperatures may not rise that much during the day, and therefore one can eat more "neutrally" in flavor, meaning foods that are not hot or cold, according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Foods that are neutral are yams, sweet potato, mushroom, olives, brown rice, almonds, and most ocean fish, for example.
In a hot and dry environment, cooling and hydrating foods are very important. A rice soup with mung beans (which are cooling) would be appropriate. Stir fry some cucumber and/or spinach, and eat fish, tomatoes, watermelon, melon, and strawberries.
Other hydrating vegetables include: iceberg lettuce, celery, radish, peppers, cauliflower, and carrots. Try eating fruits like pear and star fruit.
While I generally don’t recommend eating salads, if you have excess heat in the body and a fiery stomach, then a salad would work well. Drink plenty of water and mint or chrysanthemum tea.
Hot and humid environments require cooling foods, but not as hydrating as those in a dry area.
Foods should have a little kick to stimulate a lethargic digestive system and help drive out the sweat. In humid environments you should not have dairy products, as these are too sticky and slow the digestive system down. This also goes for icy drinks or ice cold food, too many raw products.
Prepare a miso soup and add tofu, chili and seaweed. Eat vegetables like spinach, mustard greens, and red pepper. Fruits like coconut, litchi (or lychee), red apples, and tomatoes can also be beneficial.
For the northern hemisphere, the days are long but normally the temperatures don't get that high and overnight it can really cool off. I see the northern hemisphere’s summer as what we would call the "fifth season" in TCM, or late summer.
The taste of this season is sweet. I don’t mean sugar-sweet, I mean foods like: sweet potato, carrot, beets, cucumber, and sweet corn, as well as cooked grains.
These vegetables and grains should be lightly cooked and as previously stated, portions should generally be small in summer, with light broths in the evening and seasonally available fruits.
Late summer, for the more southern countries, comes in September. This is a season of great change from hot yang to cooler yin. It's a time where you can add a little ginger, mustard greens, or cinnamon to your food.
This is a time to stretch the muscles —take a reflective walk or jog in the fresh morning air!
Depending on where you live will determine how you nourish your body. Summer is a very exciting time, drawing you out into nature, so eat well and exercise mindfully.